The Blackhawks’ communication problems — an ironic downfall in an empty, dead silent arena — started immediately after puck drop Monday and lasted all night.
The Oilers capitalized, riding a Connor McDavid hat trick to a 6-3 win in Game 2 and leveling the best-of-five series at one win apiece.
“We turned it over in our end. We turned it over in the neutral zone. We weren’t able to protect the puck in the offensive zone,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “[That makes it] tough to win.”
Just 19 seconds after puck drop, a miscommunication between the Hawks’ top defensive pair caused Adam Boqvist to leave McDavid wide open in front of goalie Corey Crawford, and the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner put the Oilers ahead.
That gaffe foretold the narrative of the game.
“You can talk no matter what, even in the loudest buildings,” Colliton said. “But it started on the first shift, with the first retrieval. We didn’t talk, we turn the puck over and it’s in the back of our net.”
The Oilers scored their third goal when Dylan Strome and Alex Nylander both reached for a loose puck and poked it right to an unmarked Tyler Ennis at the point, who beat Crawford through traffic.
They scored their sixth goal when Boqvist, Keith and Strome all crowded around the crease, leaving Alex Chiasson alone to find the puck and rip it into the net.
In between, all of the spectacular offensive plays and embarrassing defensive breakdowns — to be expected in this series between two of the league’s most aggressive yet imperfect teams — occurred. McDavid’s second strike was a Goal of the Month candidate, a beautiful end-to-end rush that blew past Olli Maatta; James Neal later scored after Crawford whiffed on a dump-in behind his own net.
But the theme of the night was undoubtedly the Hawks’ poor communication.
“You can hear everything in the building and there’s not a lot of talk,” Jonathan Toews said. “We can do a lot better job — guys like myself especially — talking to our ‘D’-men, making sure we know where the pressure’s coming from... [If] we know where the hits are going to come from, we can break their forecheck and get out of our zone a little bit easier.”
“We need guys talking in the ‘D’ zone, either at switching, where they want the puck or where an open guy is,” Slater Koekkoek added. “Talking is an easy thing any guy can do, and we need more of that next game.”
The Hawks did fight back in the second period, with goals from two unlikely candidates — defensive partners Koekkoek and Maatta — sparking a comeback to tie the game 3-3.
Then McDavid scored his third goal to give the Oilers the lead for good, and the Hawks completely withered.
Edmonton finished the game with a 62-53 edge in shot attempts and a 31-26 edge in scoring chances. In the third period, though, they dominated attempts 25-14 and chances 15-5.
“They’re a good team, they’ve got a lot of good offensive players that are going to capitalize on their chances, so we’ll try to be better as a team defensively next game,” Patrick Kane said. “That’s what’s fun about the playoffs, these highs and lows.”
Game 3 between the Hawks and Oilers is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
With Drake Caggiula suspended for Game 2, Colliton made the surprising decision to fill the vacant spot in the forward lineup with John Quenneville instead of Dylan Sikura.
Unfortunately for Quenneville, the Hawks’ poor start and overall poor performance made his presence largely pointless. He ended up playing just 5:05, registering no stats, while Kane frequently double-shifted in his spot alongside Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat.
“We just felt that Quenneville could bring some size and physicality,” Colliton said. “It was unfortunate for him, because we didn’t have everyone going to play a four-line game. That’s where he would’ve been able to have more of an impact. We had to shorten up right away because we didn’t have enough guys ready to play.”